Are extroverts happier than introverts?

It's not easy being an introvert, trying to navigate the extroverted world. What does science say about happiness in extroverts and introverts?

5 min read

It's not easy being an introvert, trying to navigate the extroverted world. Extraverts are often perceived as better leaders; research even suggests that in their lifetime extraverts will earn more than their introverted colleagues.

To make things worse, it seems that extraversion correlates with better well-being and satisfaction with life. Is it true that extroverts are happier? And what can we – introverts – do to improve our wellbeing?

Quite a number of studies have shown that extroverts experience positive emotions more often; additionally, they seem to be more satisfied with their lives. In one of the studies (Cheng & Furnham, 2014), the researchers analysed data from more than 5000 adult participants – that's really impressive! They found that extraversion was a good predictor of mental well-being. This effect was still significant when other variables – such as family social status, educational achievement, and occupational prestige – were accounted for. This is not to say that introverts are not happy, but research does seem to suggest that it is easier for extroverts than introverts to experience positive feelings and happiness.

Perhaps we should explain briefly what extraversion and introversion are. More extroverted people tend to be sociable and talkative. They enjoy spending time with others and they gain energy in social situations. Now introverts, on the other hand, can find intense social situations depleting – they need some peace and quiet to recharge and often prefer to spend time alone. Introverts are not necessarily shy; they are less energised by external stimulation (meeting new people, doing new things), and can in some cases be overwhelmed by it. Genetics plays an important role in shaping all human traits and it is no different in the case of extraversion. Our genes are responsible for up to 60 % of differences in this trait. And even though people's personalities change slightly throughout their lifetime, these are very slow and gradual changes that we have little control over.

Most of us are neither introverts nor extroverts. Some of you may be familiar with those popular personality tests that like to put people in boxes: you are either this or that. You are blue, red, you are represented by the letter I or E. But the truth of the matter is that only a minority of people belong in the I or E boxes; most of us are somewhere in between. Can I interest you in some statistics geekery? The figure below shows a normal distribution, also known as the bell curve. Funnily enough, most human traits are distributed normally – this includes psychological characteristics, such as intelligence and personality traits. The curve resembles a bell because there is a very high probability of average results – most people will be clustered close to the mean, with very few on the extreme sides of the spectrum. What does it mean? That most of us – around 68 % of people in society - are neither introverts nor extroverts. Those people could be called ambiverts and their personalities are composed of both extrovert and introvert characteristics. Only a minority among us will have a significantly higher extraversion or introversion score. It is helpful to think about introversion – extraversion as a spectrum, rather than as two distinct categories.

So why are people high in extraversion happier? One hypothesis is that they have more social support. And, well, social support is one of the best things one can have in life. For obvious reasons, more extroverted individuals spend more time socialising; they belong to formal and informal groups more often, and they tend to have more social connections. Additionally, people high in extraversion tend to receive more support from their friends and families (i.e. Tan, Krishnan, & Lee, 2016). Extroverts were also shown to have higher self-esteem and show more positivity – which in turn explained why they were happier.

If you suspect you might be an introvert… what can you do to improve your levels of happiness? It might not be such a good idea to try and behave in a more extroverted way. People probably encourage you to go out, meet others and – in general – be a more enthusiastic person. Nothing wrong with that! However, when you make a consistent effort to behave out of character, it can quickly become exhausting!

What happens when introverts try to become more extroverted? A randomised control trial (!) was conducted to examine the effects of 'extraverted' behaviour (Jackues-Hamilton, Sun, & Smillie, 2019). A randomly selected group of participants was assigned to act extroverted: "bold, talkative, outgoing, active, and assertive way, as much as possible"; there was also a control group that had a sham assignment. Behaving in an extraverted manner didn't work well for the introverts in the study: although they reported minor increases in positive emotions, they also experienced more negative emotions and tiredness. Moreover, they reported feeling less authentic (and that's never a good thing). Acting out of character can bring some short-term benefits, but will ultimately become exhausting.

So what can introverts do to be happier? Two Spanish researchers (Cabello & Fernandez-Berrocal, 2015) shed some light on this. According to their study, introverts are happier when they:

- Have a higher quality of social relationships. We should absolutely emphasize quality over quantity. While interacting with new people can be draining, developing meaningful, high-quality relationships can be more sustainable. Many introverted people detest small talk and need more meaningful conversations. That can be our superpower in building better quality connections.

- Learn how to regulate their emotion. Navigating the extroverted world can be stressful and overwhelming, so learning how to deal with difficult experiences can be very beneficial.

- Being comfortable with your introversion could help. Trying to behave differently will be depleting and may harm your self-worth. Finding authenticity and relying on your strengths (as hippie as it sounds) can provide more benefits in the long term.

I wouldn't be myself if I didn't bring up my favourite topic: cultural differences in human behaviour. Most of the studies described above were conducted in North American samples – and in psychology, it makes a world of difference where a study is conducted. The issue is that some cultures are more extroverted than others – and American and some Western-European cultures tend to be on the extraverted end of the spectrum. Do you remember the person-environment fit theory? It suggests that people are happier if there's compatibility between them and their society / culture / environment. According to this approach, it pays off to be an extraverted person in a culture that has high average levels of this trait – but it might not be the case in societies that have lower average levels of extraversion. Indeed, one fascinating study analysed data from 28 different societies (Fulmer et al., 2010). Researchers demonstrated that the links between extraversion and happiness were weaker or even non-significant in some societies (for instance Malaysia, India, Kuwait, and Nigeria). There's nothing wrong with being an introvert if people around you are similar.


  • Cabello, R., & Fernandez-Berrocal, P. (2015). Under which conditions can introverts achieve happiness? Mediation and moderation effects of the quality of social relationships and emotion regulation ability on happiness. PeerJ, 3, e1300.

  • Cheng, H., & Furnham, A. (2013). The Associations Between Parental Socio-Economic Conditions, Childhood Intelligence, Adult Personality Traits, Social Status and Mental Well-Being. Social Indicators Research, 117(2), 653–664.

  • Fulmer, C. A., Gelfand, M. J., Kruglanski, A. W., Kim-Prieto, C., Diener, E., Pierro, A., & Higgins, E. T. (2010). On “Feeling Right” in Cultural Contexts. Psychological Science, 21(11), 1563–1569.

  • Jacques-Hamilton, R., Sun, J., & Smillie, L. D. (2019). Costs and benefits of acting extraverted: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 148(9), 1538–1556.

  • Lauriola, M., & Iani, L. (2015). Does Positivity Mediate the Relation of Extraversion and Neuroticism with Subjective Happiness? PLOS ONE, 10(3), e0121991

  • Tan, C.-S., Krishnan, S. A., & Lee, Q.-W. (2016). The Role of Self-Esteem and Social Support in the Relationship between Extraversion and Happiness: a Serial Mediation Model. Current Psychology, 36(3), 556–564.